Mining the free agent ranks for good value remains an art, with the potential for rather significant rewards. While it’s unusual for a team to find a true gem — think Justin Turner — there is quite a lot of potential for adding impact in part-time roles.
We already looked at some minor-league signees who have impacted their organizations’ bullpens. Now, let’s check in on some hitters who signed for little but have been rather useful through about two months of action:
- Alexi Amarista, INF, Rockies — The 28-year-old has helped cover for the injured Trevor Story, and he’s doing more than just keeping the team afloat. Through 69 trips to the plate, he’s hitting .338/.348/.515. There’s obviously quite a lot of room for regression baked in — Amarista has drawn just one walk and carries a .412 BABIP — but he’s been a big help for the emerging Rockies team at the meager cost of $1.25MM.
- Daniel Descalso, INF, Diamondbacks — After Colorado let the utilityman go over the winter, Descalso landed only $1.5MM despite a solid 2016 season. That has worked out just fine for Arizona, which has received 92 plate appearances of .218/.337/.410 hitting from the veteran, who is walking at a 13.0% clip and succeeding despite a .250 BABIP.
- Chris Iannetta, C, Diamondbacks — Also earning a meager $1.5MM, Iannetta has helped the DBacks feel better about the decision to allow Welington Castillo to walk. Though the typically patient Iannetta is walking at about half of his career rate, he’s driving the ball like never before. Over eighty plate appearances, Iannetta has smacked six long balls and owns a .288 isolated slugging mark.
- Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Dodgers — Taking home a modest $2.6MM salary, Gutierrez has been quite productive when healthy. While Los Angeles will only ask him to play a limited role, the team will be thrilled if he can keep producing at a .257/.350/.429 rate the rest of the way.
- Austin Jackson, OF, Indians — After settling for a minor-league deal over the winter, Jackson came with low expectations. But he made the Opening Day roster and owns a .273/.327/.523 batting line that points back to his days as one of the game’s more promising young players.
- Adam Lind, 1B, Nationals — Lind languished on the market along with a variety of other sluggers, eventually scoring just $1.5MM to function as a lefty complement to Ryan Zimmerman at first base. While the Nats have received plenty of production from Zimmerman, the team is also enjoying Lind’s robust output off the bench. He owns a .340/.400/.604 slash over sixty plate appearances, with as many walks as strikeouts (10.0% apiece).
- Mark Reynolds, 1B, Rockies — Expected to land on the bench after returning to Colorado on a minors deal, Reynolds was thrown into a more significant role when Ian Desmond opened the year on the DL. He has responded with outstanding production: .313/.388/.555 with 13 home runs in 206 plate appearances.
- Kurt Suzuki, C, Braves — At just $1.5MM, Suzuki has been quite the bargain. He’s outhitting most of the league’s catchers in his 88 plate appearances, with a .257/.379/.457 slash. Interestingly, Suzuki is walking 11.4% of the time — nearly double his typical levels — while also hitting for good power (.200 ISO).
- Chase Utley, INF, Dodgers — The former star took home just $2MM in exchange for his services this year, and seemed ready to take a smaller role on the Dodgers’ bench. After a slow start, though, he has begun to deliver. 125 plate appearances into the season, he’s batting .252/.347/.430 with three dingers and three steals — the type of production not seen since back in 2013, when he was still with the Phillies.